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KajoPicks: 10 South Korean spy films about North Korean espionage

When it comes to the spy film genre, the most famous movies are none other than the James Bond series.

While Hollywood took on a more fictional, imaginative angle of espionage activities, South Korean filmmakers turned to their northern neighbour for inspiration.

A handful of dramas and movies based on North Korean espionage came out over the years, and some of them were inspired by the real deal.

So here are KajoMag’s 10 South Korean spy films about North Korean espionage to watch:
1.Spy Gone North (2018)

Loosely based on the true story of South Korean spy, Park Chae-seo, this movie stars Hwang Jung-min, Lee Sung-min and Cho Jin-woong.

Jung-min plays the role of Park Seok-young, an agent recruited by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to infiltrate the highest ranks in North Korea.

He is given the code name ‘Black Venus’. His mission is to travel to Beijing disguised as a salesman and establish a business connection with high ranking North Korean official Ri Myung-un (Lee Sung-min).

Instead of expecting action and guns like most spy films, Spy Gone North (2018) is more of a slow-burn political drama.

2.The Berlin File (2013)

If you are looking for more action and thrill for your dose of South Korean spy films, watch The Berlin File (2013).

Talented Korean actor Ha Jung-woo stars as North Korean agent Pyo Jong-sung in Berlin who is betrayed and cut loose when a weapons deal goes wrong.

While trying to escape from Berlin, South Korean agent Jung Jin-soo (Han Suk-kyu) and North Korean agent Dong Myung-soo (Ryoo Seung-bum) are also hot on his trail.

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The director Ryoo Seung-wan wanted the movie to be reminiscent of The Bourne Identity. So you can imagine it to be fast-paced with intense characters build-up for the secret agents.

3.Commitment (2013)

After his father’s failed espionage mission, North Korean Myung-hoon (Big Bang’s TOP) and his younger sister Hye-in (Kim Yoo-jung) are sent to a labor prison camp.

To save his sister, Myung-hoon volunteers to become a spy and infiltrates the South to finish what his father failed to do.

Arriving in South Korea, he poses as a North Korean defector and enrolls at a local high school.

Things get tricky when both North and South Korean governments are out to get him.

4.The Suspect (2013)

The selling point for us to watch this film is the fact that Gong Yoo is playing the role of a spy.

His character Ji Dong-chul is one of the top special forces agent in North Korea until he is abandoned by his own government.

This South Korean spy film is another revenge movie as Dong-chul finds out his wife and daughter are killed.

He defects to the South where he is framed for a murder by the South Korean intelligence service.

5.Secretly, Greatly (2013)

Secretly, Greatly (2013) is a South Korean spy film that starts light and funny and then intense and emotional halfway through the movie.

It stars Kim Soo-hyun, Park Ki-woong, and Lee Hyun-woo who play North Korean spies infiltrating South Korea as a village idiot, a rock musician and a high school student respectively.

What are the odds of three North Korean spies living in the same neighbourhood anyway?

They start to get comfortable with their lives in the South until a mission comes ordering them to commit suicide.

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6.Operation Chromite (2016)

Liam Neeson in a South Korean spy film? Sign us up for this movie. Based on the real-life events of the Battle of Inchon, Neeson takes up the role of General Douglas MacArthur who devises a secret plan to attack behind enemy lines at Inchon.

The movie sets in 1950, few months after North Korean forces have invaded most of South Korea.

Then, an American-led UN coalition is sent to Korea to help the South Koreans.

But before any making any move, MacArthur plans a top secret South Korean intelligence operation. Operation Chromite presents a fictionalised version of the real operation in which the spies gather essential information from within occupied Inchon.

7.Secret Reunion (2010)

Imagine two spies; one from South Korea and another from the North reuniting years after both are no longer in the espionage business. Will they pretend to not know each other or plot to murder each other?

The story follows Agent Lee Han-gyoo (Song Kang-ho), a South Korean spy who falls from grace after failing to stop the assassination of a North Korean dissident.

Meanwhile, Ji-won (Kang Dang-won) is a North Korean undercover spy living in South Korea who is betrayed by his fellow agent.

Six years later, Han-gyoo works as a private investigator and Ji-won in construction. Fate brings them together later in life; will they pick up what they left years ago?

8.Silmido (2013)

In 1968, a black operations unit of the Republic of Korea Air Force known as Unit 684 is formed to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.
Thirty-one civilians made up of either petty criminals or unemployed youths are recruited with the promise of money and jobs if they succeed in their mission.

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Unit 684 members are trained on Silmido, an inhabited island off the Yellow Sea. They have to endure harsh training for years, during which seven of them die.

Things go even farther south in August 1971, when the assassination mission is cancelled following the improvement of relations between North and South Korea.

Feeling betrayed and upset after all they went through, the surviving members of Unit 684 start an uprising against the South Korean government.

This movie is the dramatised version of the Unit 684 retaliation against their government.

9.The Spies (2012)

Imagine living your life undercover for 22 years and suddenly you receive a mission to assassinate a target.

Section chief Kim (Kim Myung-min) was dispatched to South Korea 22 years ago to spy for the North Korean government. Over the years, he sticks to his life routine; making a living by selling fake Viagra pills smuggled from China.

After he receives a sudden assassination order, he starts to gather his teammates.

The movie follows how Kim and his teammates reluctantly carry out the assassination plot.

10.Double Agent (2003)

During the Cold War, Lim Byong-ho (Han Suk-kyu) is chased by North Korean officials in Berlin where he narrowly escapes.

However, he is caught by South Korean officials in which he is brought back to South Korea for interrogation.

After enduring horrifying torture, Lim convinces the South Korean to let him working as a training officer for operatives on survival in North Korea.

The plot thickens as it turns out Lim is actually a North Korean spy who still receives orders from his sleeper agent in South Korea.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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